As we enter the heat of summer here in Cincinnati, my thoughts turn to heading outside and cooling off. Sadly most of the local pools, lakes, and rivers have a negative view of bottles, even those filled with craft beers. This has led me to my summer project of finding a canned beer to last through the pool parties and canoe trips. Cans have gotten a bad name due to people associating a metallic taste with the beer. As times have changed, so has the assumption that the can is the only reason for poor quality beer. I let none of that deter me from my quest for a great beer in can form.
Up first is the Summer Solstice Cerveza from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. This light cream ale has a lemon meringue quality that makes it nice and light after a hot muggy day of yard work. The overall flavor is sharp and leaves the palate with the hint of lemon that fades to a nice creaminess. Overall, the flavor and mouth feel make this a beer to recommend. The price tag is a touch high ($8.50 for a 6-pack on the Kentucky side of the river) but the quality makes this a great first entry into my attempt to find a nice, well crafted, micro-brewed beer in a can.
Any suggestions for other cans to try that might be difficult to find? Let me know in the comments along with suggestion on where to find them. I’ll be searching for canned beer during our travels as well.
One of my dearest friends picked up and moved to San Francisco a few years back. I hate that she’s gone, but it does mean I get to visit with her when I’m in the City by the Bay and I even get to cajole her into the occasional guest post. Jen Rizzo is a great freelance graphic artist (she did the logo and such over at the Hoperatives) and is quite the foodie. In this post, she’s filling us in on her recent tour of Anchor Steam Brewery.
I have always been a big believer in drinking locally. It’s just better. You’re supporting local businesses and decreasing your carbon footprint. Even above those two very important things, it connects you to the local flavor and allows you to explore some new options. If I’m in a new city, I always want to know what their local craft beer is like. I’m originally from Kansas City, where we have the lovely Boulevard brewery. It is probably surprising to no one that a brewery out of Kansas City specializes in wheat beer – but you can find it everywhere. The most divey of all dive bars will at least have bottles of Boulevard Wheat. When I lived in Cincinnati, I threw down Bell’s like it was candy. (The Two-Hearted and Oberon were my favorites, but I try to not discriminate.) And, of course, I had the pleasure of living in New York during the winter, so I had my share of Brooklyn Black, which is still among my favorite reasons to travel east during the holiday season.
Here in San Francisco, we are incredibly spoiled with the Anchor Steam Brewery.
The Anchor Brewing Company first opened its doors in 1896, and was purchased by Fritz Maytag in 1965. He learned west coast beer from the ground up, and eventually settled on the brews we have today. Recently, Fritz sold the brewery to a holding company a few miles north of San Francisco (owned by two former Skyy vodka representatives), which sent our beer world into a little bit of a panic. Fritz Maytag is greatly respected for his accomplishments in craft brewing, and a lot of us are on the edge of our seats anticipating what comes next. When a friend told me she had an extra ticket to an Anchor tour, I jumped at the chance. The Bay Area Beer Socials group takes this specially-organized after-hours tour once a year, but the organizer fears that this may be the last year for it due to the brewery changing hands.
Anchor produces both seasonal and year-round beers. Anchor Steam is their flagship beer. It’s rich and a little hoppy – a classic west coast beer. (When I was still living in Cincinnati, Northside Tavern kept it on draft, but I’d have to defer to the Hoperatives as to who has it now.)
“Steam” beer was originally a term used to describe west coast brews, but is now a trademark of the Anchor Brewing Company. There are many stories about where the name “steam beer” came from. My favorite is that around the turn of the century, there was no way to effectively chill the beer after boiling, so San Francisco breweries had large, shallow, open-top tanks on the roof to allow the climate to cool it naturally. When beer was being brewed, clouds of steam rose off the top of the buildings – hence, steam beer!
Today, Anchor replicates the process by using these open-top tanks inside:
The beer sits in these tanks for three days, at which point it’s nearly flat. It’s combined later at about an 85/15 ratio with beer that’s only sat there for one day and isn’t quite done, so it balances out in the end.
Liberty Ale is like Anchor Steam’s big brother. A little hoppier, a little richer, a little higher in alcohol content. (6%, compared to Anchor Steam’s 4.9%.) Its name honors Paul Revere’s bicentennial ride, but the recipe stems from older variations of Our Special Ale, their winter seasonal. Anchor Porter is their darkest offering. Dark, rich and roasty with a hoppy back to it, it’s one of my favorite porters. Not too malty, not too smoky. Old Foghorn is a barleywine-style ale. A little lower in alcohol content than most barleywines, at 8-10% (Anchor claims it varies), it’s still the heftiest of the Anchor brews. A little sweet, incredibly rich, and a little bubbly. On draft, it’s particularly lovely, but it holds up pretty well in its bottled version. If the Liberty Ale is Anchor Steam‘s big brother, Anchor Small Beer is Old Foghorn’s little brother. At a teeny tiny 3.3%, it’s created from a second running of the mash used to make Old Foghorn. Even though they come from the same place, they couldn’t taste more different. Small Beer is light, but rich, and takes on a much more bitter flavor than any of Anchor’s other beers.
Anchor makes four seasonals – Our Special Ale, their winter offering, Anchor Bock, for spring, Anchor Summer, and the newest addition, Anchor Humming. Humming Ale was originally created last year to honor the 30th anniversary of the current location. Bars in San Francisco snatched up what they could, since it was intended to be a limited run. About the time that everyone was running out of it, Anchor announced that they would be bottling it as their new autumn seasonal.
Brewery tours are available by reservation during the week. If you’re in the San Francisco area anytime soon, it’s a wonderful piece of history. Plus, the tour wraps up with a tasting, so you can choose your favorites! (While you’re in the area, do what we did and trek up the hill a couple blocks to Goat Hill Pizza, where you can get a pitcher of Anchor Steam as well as sourdough-crust pizzas. Thank me later.)
– Jen Rizzo
Photos © Jen Rizzo, 2010
Hello all, this is Kevin once again with a delayed review of our trip to Big River Brewery in Walt Disney World during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
We went to Big River after spending an exhausting but fun day sampling wines and our palates needed a little bit of hops and malt to help reset themselves, so we headed out the back door of Epcot and took a boat over to Disney’s Boardwalk for a mircobrew experience. We hope to try Big River again, hopefully with our friends the Hoperatives, who are big fans of the place. I suspect that we were too tired to fully appreciate the experience.
We tried the following:
Southern Flyer Light Lager (3.61% Alcohol by Volume – AbV) – The light cross over beer for people who are comfortable with Bud’s American ale, the flavor had a slight soapy quality similar to what I find in Bud American ale. I believe that quality is from the Liberty hops used.
Gadzooks Pilsner (3.61% AbV) – Standard Pilsner for those who like pilsners. Nother super remarkable, but exactly what is promised.
Steamboat Pale Ale (4.4% AbV) – Traditional Pale Ale. Once again a nice solid entry that hits the expected notes and won’t dissapoint ale drinkers.
Rocket Red Ale (5.3% AbV) – Nice upfront malt, fades to rounded finish. This one is pretty tasty and is memorable. This one is reccomended if you like a malty flavor in a light bodied beer.
Sweet Magnolia American Brown Ale (5.18% AbV) – Has similar taste to a Chocolate Malt. Very little coffee. Kevin’s favorite, Michelle not as much. The sweetness and chocolate would make this a recommendation for Guinness lovers, but it’s not a stout so the overall flavor has a strong hop presence, so try a sample and see if it’s a fit.
Wowser’s Wheat (4.29% AbV) – Traditional German style Wheat beer served with a wedge of lemon. The banana and clove components are balanced and in line with what is expected.
Overall, Big River was a nice diversion from the Food and Wine festival and the standard theme park food that you can usually find. If you are in the mood for a beer and chicken nachos, head over to Big River at Disney’s Boardwalk.
It’s Kevin, once again filling in while Michelle is at CES.
We spent Christmas week in southern Florida, with several days in Key West. While we were there, Michelle got a tweet from the Hoperatives suggesting we visit Kelly’s Caribbean. Turns out, Kelly’s is a microbrewery. Like anything in Key West, they are the “southernmost” in the US.
Below you’ll find a video of me reviewing the three beers they had available.
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On our recent trip to Chicago, Michelle and I made a slight detour on the way home to stop off at the Goose Island Clyborn Brewpub. With 25 different beers available on tap or in bottle, we knew it was going to be fun to try beers that we cannot usually find back home.
This was our first visit to Goose Island and it was well worth the time. The layout of the beer menu has the beers divided up into categories of flavor: Refreshing, Session, Malty, Hoppy, Belgian and New World. The menu gives food pairings based on these categories and we split an order of Sweet Potato Fries which seemed to work with the different selections we had.
We each tried a sample of 4 different beers poured 4-oz tall. My selections were:
Six (Session) – This was my least favorite of the 8 samples. It seemed a little off and basic. For a low alcohol beer, it just didn’t have enough structure in my opinion and gets a
S.O.B. (Session) – A nice Bitter with good solid balance and very little hoppiness.
Naughty Goose (Malty) – This cask conditioned beer was one of my favorites, this had a nice chocolate malt flavor that exploded in the upfront taste. This was like a stop at UDF for a malt. Nice and smooth and easy to drink.
Midway IPA (Hoppy) – Nice citrus with hops up front, in the middle and on the end. Not much else to say, but this impressed with it’s flavor.
Michelle went a little sweeter and selected:
Willow St. White (Refreshing) – Unfiltered wheat beer had a little more bitterness than Michelle’s favorite (Bell’s Oberon) but still had nice spice to balance the usual wheat flavor.
Hefeweizen (Refreshing) – Another wheat beer, but it had more concentration on the banana flavors.
Fleur (Belgian) – I think this was the overall favorite of Michelle and high on my list as well. This was crafted with a similar approach to the Grassroots ale from Great Lakes. This uses hibiscus tea leaves to add an incredible amount of spice to the beer.
Wheatmiser (New World) – A 9.1% AbV was a nice finish to the two samples as the sweetness made this a desert beer. This was one to be enjoyed in small quantities (it’s sold in an 8oz snifter) It was also on the possible growler list, but we doubted we could finish it in time.
Overall, this was a great stop and we left with a growler of the Fleur and an extra empty growler for our friends over at Hoperatives. I’d recommend the trip if you are in the Chicago area and want to try more brews than we can get in the Cincinnati area. Goose Island gets a nice as both Michelle and I were able to find beer we liked.
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